At the beach, Melissa Groo often gets at eye level with avian beachgoers like plovers, sandpipers and skimmers to tell stories about their lives. There is only one problem for the conservation photographer: the beach itself. Sand can scratch lenses or jam camera buttons and dials. If it gets inside your camera body, the repair cost can be exorbitant. Meanwhile, get too close to the waves and salt spray can coat your lens and corrode batteries and ports. Don’t risk your equipment. Follow Groo’s hard-earned tips to protect your camera while enjoying the best of summer.
The choice of lens is critical. Zoom lenses typically have a telescoping component that is easily infiltrated by sand, which can lead to crusty, clogged gears. For this reason, Groo favors prime lenses. If you bring a zoom, use a well-fitting rain cover, such as the LensCoat Raincoat ($53+), to avoid salt and sand. When you’re not shooting, keep your lens closed and your camera stowed.
Groo advises against changing your goal halfway through. If you must make a trade, retreat to your car or other sheltered space to reduce the risk of windblown sand.
Placing your camera directly on the sand from a low angle is an invitation to disaster. Consider using a ground lug, such as the NatureScapes Skimmer Ground Pod II ($100). Like a plastic sled for your camera, it slides easily over the sand as you adjust your shot.
Conditions change quickly, so stay aware of your surroundings and check a tide chart. When you’re hooked up to a sight, it’s easy to miss an oncoming wave that could soak your gear.
Clean your equipment after each shoot. Start with a brush to remove sand from the camera and lens body. Then switch to a handheld blower, like the Giotto Rocket Air Blaster ($15+). A spray bottle and a soft cloth can remove salt residue on the body. Finally, gently clean the front of your lens with a microfiber cloth or wet camera wipe.
Need a more advanced cleaning job? Check with the camera manufacturer or search YouTube for your camera and lens model. And, just in case the beach wins out, invest in camera insurance before you go so you can rest easy knowing you’ll stay well-equipped to perfect your future shots.
This story was originally published in the Summer 2022 issue. To receive our print magazine, become a member by donate today.